The Actor’s Playpen
The Legacy of a Folk Hero
As fate would have it, back in 1961, while at Columbia Records making my third folk music album, I invited my friend, Bob Dylan, to play harmonica on the LP. It was I who introduced Dylan to John Hammond. The influential Columbia Records executive produced albums for legendary jazz artists, among them Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman.
At this point, Hammond was turning the spotlight on folk music at Columbia, signing Pete Seeger and myself; the Clancy Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel were to come. Dylan has remained with Columbia for more than 40 years, certainly a remarkable partnership.
Bob and I had an unusual bond. We were both folk singers, but as friends, each knew the other had a weakness for the music of Buddy Holly. I was from Texas and knew Buddy, so Bob and I had lots to talk about. Our other passion was this new musical adventure.
Folk music came with lots of “structure,” both musical and moral. There was plenty of gospel music — which accounts for the early evidence of Christian musical influence noted by writer Andrew Muchin. Our heroes in folk were Woody Guthrie and Seeger. And, as Dylan’s autobiography, “Chronicles,” points out, we were armed with Woody and Pete’s “take no prisoners” ethic:
1 — Tell it like it is.
2 — Use few if any production frills.
3 — Be a “stand-up-on-your-own” artist.
“Artist” is the word. After interpreting traditional music and its connection to gospel, bluegrass and country music, Dylan and others of our acquaintance in New York City’s Greenwich Village began to create contemporary “new folk.” Tom Paxton, Eric Anderson, Phil Ochs, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Joni Mitchell and the rest of us threw in our two cents, as well. The most successful of these was Dylan, acoustic or electric.
Dylan’s work was both spellbinding and consequential. He helped to inspire a generation to march into the South in the name of civil rights. Many young men listened to his words and then burned their draft cards, putting themselves at some risk.
The term “generation gap” was born, fueled by the rift within families. Draft-age males left home and fled to Canada to avoid going as soldiers to a foreign war that they believed our nation was fighting without provocation.
Dylan asked moral questions that had never before been asked in popular music, turning his smoldering gaze on congressmen, senators, warlords, lawmen, professors — in other words, the establishment.
With so direct a message and so revolutionary a reach, Dylan rattled cages. And, he laid down the gauntlet to these citizens of the future to dismiss the easy answers of the past.
“Don’t trust anyone over 30” not only entered the vernacular; it also became words to live by. Dylan was gifted with the courage and skill to ask profound questions and the ability, through his popular music, to get others to hear those questions.
And it seemed proper, even inevitable, to fans and admirers that Dylan the philosopher, the voice of a generation, also would become Dylan the leader. It seemed like the natural progression for those whose consciousness was so recently raised.
They wanted the questioner to answer the questions. They summoned Dylan to attend their marches, write articles and, verily, to run for president. Dylan did not see things that way. He envisioned no role for himself along those lines. Besides, Dylan had a young wife and a stepdaughter — and soon would add his own sons (and eventually another daughter) to a burgeoning family.
But what he preferred not to be doesn’t diminish what he was. Dylan’s great creativity, strength and resolve — his artistic powers — were never wasted; his opportunities never lost. He spoke to our souls with every bit as much depth as the ancient philosophers.
Nearly three generations after his celebrity burned so brightly, the essence of his ongoing musical contribution still shines strongly, though perhaps more sporadically, and sometimes more ironically, more wistfully. He’s still doing concert tours; he writes books; and he remains a subject of public fascination, as the spate of articles, biographies and documentaries demonstrate.
I don’t see him fading from musical prominence any more than Frank Sinatra became irrelevant after his own early glory period. And the ongoing Dylan legacy was never just about music, but also about social justice.
He has never ceased to be a spiritual and musical seeker. And thankfully, here in 5766 and 2005, Dylan and his muse are alive and well.
We can be proud that he was so well grounded in Judaism, as well as folk music tradition. Both have served him well. And (I believe) he has served both traditions faithfully in return.
Carolyn Hester, a leading performer in the ’60s folk-music scene, has, like Bob Dylan, continued to write, perform and record music. With her husband and musical collaborator, Dave Blume, the Los Angeles resident also has raised two daughters and managed Cafe Danssa, a longtime Israeli folk-dancing venue.
Family History at the Holiday Table
How to make a seder child’s play
For parents of squirmy kids, a Passover seder can seem longer than the 40 years our ancestors spent wandering through the desert. Fortunately, all it takes is a little forethought and creativity to keep the younger set from getting as jumpy as the frogs in Pharaoh’s bed at the big event. The following suggestions should help you plan a family-friendly Seder that promises to hold the attention of all kinds of kids — wise, wicked, simple and those just plain unable to ask.
Set the Stage
You’ll immediately pull children into the exodus experience by adding scenery to the seder. Drape sheets across the ceiling to give the table a tent-like feel, or pitch a freestanding Bedouin abode in the corner. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, ask guests to sport full Israelite attire. It’s amazing what can be done with some sheets, robes, pillowcases and towels.
Not Quite Ready for Primetime Seders
Set an early seder start time, thus keeping the evil Pharaohs lurking within your kids at bay a bit longer.
It’s in the Bag
Hand out goodie bags at the door to your most wiggly guests. Include Passover stickers, mini-books and kosher-for-Passover candies.
Open a Mini-Matzah Factory
Dig up a matzah recipe on the Internet and let kids have a go at baking the afikomen. The dry crumbly results may not be Manischevitz material, but they’ll leave your pint-sized bakers feeling more a part of Passover, and the extra dough can keep little hands occupied during the seder.
Serve Up Some Plagues
Scatter plastic frogs, beasts and insects (locusts) and other plague-related knick-knacks around the table.
Recline in Style
Help kids use fabric paint to decorate plain pillowcases with Passover related art. Since reclining is the name of the game during the seder, these meaningful creations will be put to good use.
Stretch the Festive Meal
Grumbling tummies are prime perpetrators of seder-night meltdowns. By serving the matzah ball soup upon arrival and offering up platters of carrot and celery sticks as karpas, you can squelch pre-festive meal kvetching faster than your kids can say, “Let my people go!”
Who Wants to be a Matzahnaire?
Passover is all about asking questions, but the big four are only the beginning. Keep kids excited and involved with the seder by intermittently morphing into a game show host. Be sure to award correct answers to holiday-themed questions with special Passover prizes.
Give a Taste of Slavery
Just as little heads are beginning to nod off, “discover” an envelope addressed to all the children at your seder table containing a letter from the Pharoh himself. Read the edict — commanding all children to begin building pyramids, immediately — aloud; pull out the blocks you stored under the table prior to the seder and let the enslavement begin.
Try a Change of Venue
Whether everyone moves to the living room to sing Passover songs or takes a walk outside to the pool to send a baby Moses doll off in a basket, a field trip away from the table during the course of the seder works miracles.
Chop It Up
It’s much more fun to eat a Hillel sandwich when you helped in making the charoset and maror. In my family, making horseradish sauce is an annual pre-seder event complete with Shlomo Carlbach music. Since only those old enough to safely handle a knife are allowed to participate, the kids consider it a virtual rite of passage.
Put a Spotlight on Stories
The true purpose of the seder is to pass the story of Exodus down from one generation to the next. But why stop there? Ask a few of your senior guests to come prepared to share a true and entertaining tale about their lives. When kids start to stray, pass a play microphone to one of these individuals. Their tales are sure to turn little heads back toward the seder table.
Finally, keep in mind that keeping children occupied during a seder is liable to take far more effort than simply bribing squirmy kids with chocolate-covered macaroons or sticking them with a teenage baby sitter in the playroom for the night. By taking the time to orchestrate a kid-friendly seder, you significantly up the odds that your fidgety children will one day do the same for your fidgety grandchildren.
Will Successor Tread Pope’s Jewish Path?
Make Your Seder an Affair to Remember
Many Passover hostesses feel enslaved by the amount of effort that goes into making an elegant seder table. On the holiday of freedom, the only thing to which you should be enslaved is your creativity. By using your imagination and listening to the tried-and-true advice of the experts, you can create a stylish and sophisticated Passover seder that will have your guests wishing for another invitation next year.
An unordinary setting can have a dramatic effect. Elie Neuman, program coordinator of Pesach with the Chevrah in Rancho Mirage, often has special requests to prepare private seder tables overlooking the hotel’s gardens.
“A beautiful backdrop transforms the seder’s look,” he said.
This year, weather permitting, think outside of your dining room and set up a seder table in your backyard. Hang Chinese lanterns and Christmas lights for a dazzling effect. Play with the lighting by positioning standing lamps from your living room at the ends of a long table, contrasting the look of the outdoors with a homey feel.
With the kosher-for-Passover dietary restrictions, choosing a menu can be intimidating. Levana Kirschenbaum, cookbook author and cooking instructor known by her first name, suggests preparing dishes such as roasted asparagus, grilled fish, and seasonal soups you are certain will work.
Susie Fishbein, author of the “Kosher By Design” series (see story page 38), said that food should not prevent the hostess from enjoying the seder. “Instead of making seven different courses, prepare simple dishes that show you put in time and effort,” she said. “Don’t feel like you have to make meat, chicken and fish.”
Since the Passover table is generally crammed with wine bottles and glasses, the seder plate and boxes of matzah, centerpieces can be tricky.
“With everything on the table, you don’t want the flowers to be overpowering,” said Joel Katz of Prestige Catering, who caters Passover meals in hotels throughout Florida and upstate New York. Instead, he scatters small arrangements of flowers that add color to an already busy table.
Fishbein suggested using topiaries because they provide height without obstructing the view. Since topiaries do not die, only the fruits and flowers decorating them need to be replenished. “You can start by having white roses in the topiary for the seders and switch to lemons or strawberries for the end of the holiday,” Fishbein said.
Levana explains how every hostess can easily prepare a beautiful table within her budget. “Instead of making extravagant floral arrangements, I like to bring out specific colors and textures,” she said.
Levana recommended using a vibrant colored tablecloth with a patterned texture and choosing flowers within variations of two colors that contrast with the tablecloth. As long as the flowers are in the color scheme, inexpensive ones will do the trick.
During a recent demonstration at her Manhattan-based cooking school, Levana presented a stunning arrangement of four-dozen orange-red tulips assembled in a low vase. “No one will care if you use one type of flower, as long as you do a good job,” she said, noting that this arrangement only cost her $30.
The personal touch is the main component that turns an average seder into an affair guests will remember long after the holiday is over. Throughout the year, Fishbein shops for special touches. One year she found stretchy plastic frogs to use as napkin holders while another year she found glass swizzle sticks with decorative frogs, which she placed in each goblet.
Neuman suggested placing individual seder plates at each setting. This way, guests have the essentials while additional plates of marror or charoset can be passed.
Neuman also recommended anticipating what guests will need ahead of time in order to make them feel comfortable. Besides providing a large selection of wine and matzah, find out if your guests have dietary restrictions. If a guest is allergic to wheat, special order spelt or oat matzah.
Creative place cards that double as mementoes will further personalize the table. By cutting cardboard strips; gluing fabric, ribbon and beads; and labeling them with each guest’s name, you can create individual bookmarks. Place the bookmarks in a haggadah at every place setting in order for guests to know where they are sitting.
Bringing It All Together
Levana and Fishbein both stress the necessity of the hostess feeling relaxed on the night of the seder. That way the hostess can join in the seder, and with everyone else, celebrate our people’s freedom.
Felisa Billet, a freelance writer from Forest Hills, N.Y., is at work on a cookbook, a fusion of Mexican and Jewish cuisine.
Afikomen, Afikomen Wherefore Art Thou?
Hail to the Seder Chief
I can just imagine my Orthodox grandparents worrying about making the seder come alive for their grandchildren. Grandma was too busy de-feathering chickens and grandpa taking care of business in his violin shop to think about how we might be kept happy at their seder table. Entertainment and seder would never have been uttered in the same sentence in their Bronx home behind the H. Bass Music store.
But I am different. I have the time and the energy to make our seder a swirling, interactive event for my four grandchildren. Why, they can even dip their little feet into my cellophane Red Sea as it parts on my living room floor.
And, to top it off, I am the maven of plague bags. When the kids were very little, the bags were little. The first years they were small, white paper bags with simple black lettering. Simple items went into them: frogs that I had made out of green paper, 99 Cent Store kid’s sunglasses for darkness, wrapping bubbles that popped like boils and small plastic cups colored with red markers to signify the blood.
No grandchild would ever sit tired and glassy eyed just waiting and praying for the meal. We would go through the entire hagaddah, but with enough diversions to allow them to stay ‘with us’ without having a grand melt down before the first course.
In 2003, I went big time. I bought small canvas bags for 99 cents each but then had them machine embroidered by my dressmaker friend Liz. Each child’s name was written in a different font and color. She attached ribbon fringe with multicolored beads to the bags. Creativity and hopes of keeping their attention and in the process teaching them the significance of the seder meal was my goal. And now, my friends were getting involved as well.
Last year, we had our bags, we had our green gummy frogs, we had our boils and our blood. When it came to talk about darkness, I turned out all the lights and each person at the table talked about what darkness meant to them. The kids said bedtime and a few of the adults joked about sex.
But everything seems to pale in comparison to my hail. Now, you have to understand that the previous years’ hail was quite adequate. Small rolled up pieces of silver foil did the trick and could be playfully tossed around the table. But, a few weeks before Passover, I had read in The New York Times about a grandfather (surely he did not own a violin-making store) who also tries to engage his young grandchildren at seder time. During the day, the article said, this man secretly and gently places minimarshmallows on top of the blades of his wooden ceiling fan. My eyes lit up. This would be a real crowd pleaser. When the fan was turned on, the little white pseudo-hail would fly around the room, just like the real thing as all would watch, wide-eyed.
I had a ceiling fan. I would buy the tiny puffs and we too would have our authentic San Fernando Valley hail. Surely the kids and the grown-ups would stand in awe of this my most fabulous creation to date.
Everyone followed me from the table as we marched to my computer room where the fan was silently waiting with its marshmallow topping. One of the kids turned on the fan and as predicted, the tiny white confections started flying. Up, down and on the ground. I waited, if not for deafening applause, at least oohs and ahs from my adoring fans.
Here is what really happened. They looked; some may have even thought, “Wow, that was great!” At least I hoped they did. But no one said much and if they did, it was lost in the shuffling of feet as they scurried back to the seder table.
The marshmallows. I was too tired to even think of cleaning them up that night or even asking for help. We did get a few up, but that was because they had stuck to the bottom of shoes and kept sticking us down as we walked.
The marshmallows a week later? Many still remained where the fan had dutifully blown them the night of our seder. Many more hardened where they lay but I learned to walk gingerly among them. As the days melted into weeks, they began to harden. A friend said, “If you leave them on the floor long enough, next year they will really feel like hail.” She was on to something. My ever creative mind clicked in and I answered:
“Yes, and the kids could wear woolen hats and mufflers and maybe even ski clothing.”
When I started to think about erecting a miniature ski lift next to the pool, I knew, that even for me, that would be going over the edge.
Maybe my grandparents back in the Bronx had the right idea after all.
Barbara Joan Grubman is a retired speech specialist and author of “Introduction to terrariums: A step-by-step guide” (Nash Pub, 1972) She lives in Woodland Hills.
Getting Married? Get ‘Creative’
“The Creative Jewish Wedding Book, a Hands-On Guide to New & Old Traditions, Ceremonies & Celebrations” by Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer (Jewish Lights Publishing, $19.99).
Synagogue or sailboat? Bride and groom or same sex? Orthodox or interfaith?
Whatever your leanings, if you want a Jewish element to your wedding or commitment ceremony, have I got a book for you!
“The Creative Jewish Wedding Book” by Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer helps couples tap into their creativity and design the wedding that really suits them. Kaplan-Mayer inspires readers to honor their own comfort level of style, taste, emotional and financial resources and Jewish observance.
How do you and your partner begin to decide whether to have a ketubah (a Jewish marriage contract) in gender-neutral language, or in the 2,000-year-old traditional text? Or, what if you’ve never even heard of a ketubah?
What if your life partner, like Kaplan-Mayer’s husband, is rooted culturally in Judaism and spiritually in Buddhism?
Or, perhaps of lesser import, but also problematic, are klezmer and Motown mutually exclusive forms of entertainment?
Where should you compromise, and when do you stand firm?
Kaplan-Mayer acknowledges the infinite range of her readers’ situations and then, amazingly, finds a common ground to respectfully guide them through the planning and personalizing of their Jewish wedding.
After her engaging introduction and general orientation, Kaplan-Mayer presents a step-by-step, chapter-by-chapter process for making choices about a wedding. With logic, intuition, inclusiveness and savvy, she demystifies this intimidating concept for her readers.
Each chapter deals with a particular custom or ritual in three ways:
First, down-to-earth explanations and translations from Hebrew establish a baseline grasp of the custom or ritual for the couple.
Second, a series of thought-provoking questions seeks to instill in the couple a strong sense of themselves before they consider their options. While the author embraces incorporating the expectations of family and friends into the wedding, she wants the couple to have a firm grasp of their own boundaries before they start to consider pleasing others.
Third, the chapters’ themes are illustrated through the author’s personal examples and other couples’ stories.
“The Creative Jewish Wedding Book” offers techniques for crafting everything from the chuppah to the gift bags for out-of-town guests. It encourages exploring every angle of the wedding ceremony from the music to the level of spirituality. It recognizes facing squarely the inevitable challenges in the planning process. It continually reminds the reader to remain joyfully centered around the big picture and the future.
The appendices alone contain a wealth of information, particularly for unaffiliated couples.
Appendix I, “Books and Online Resources,” leaves no stone unturned with Web sites and books on: weddings, invitations, ketubah artists, Judaica, music, interfaith resources, Israeli products and much more.
Appendix II, “Wedding Planning,” has three sections: a one-year organizational timeline with each countdown division subtitled, including Jewish issues, creative planning and practical concerns. There’s a wedding task checklist and even instructions for developing a wedding Web site.
Appendix III covers alternative Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings).
Kaplan-Mayer states early on that “The Creative Jewish Wedding Book” is intended to be a “secondary resource,” and she refers the reader to other books for more intensive study of the historical meanings of Jewish wedding customs and rituals.
But a deeper understanding of Judaism doesn’t appear necessary to make fine use of the book. Inclusive and current to the max, “The Creative Jewish Wedding Book” seems to stand on its own as an invaluable planning mechanism for just about any two people intending to share a life together.
Ex-Communist ‘Burb Makes Menorahs
In Search of ‘Shlomi’
Shlomi, the 16-year-old protagonist of the Israeli film, “Bonjour, Monsieur Shlomi,” has his hands full.
He cooks the family meals, cleans up, does the laundry, is the peacemaker in his quarrelsome Moroccan family and bathes his grandfather, who greets him every morning with the film’s title.
For his pains, the wide-eyed Shlomi is considered none too bright by his family and in school, where he is flunking out.
Worse, Shlomi believes the outside world’s assessment of him, which seems to be confirmed by his first attempt at romance. When he suggests to his girlfriend that they “upgrade” their relationship — Hebrew slang for having sex — she “freezes” him out.
At home, the situation is even worse. His obsessive mother has kicked out her hypochondriac husband for a one-time slip with her best friend. Shlomi’s older brother is the mother’s favorite, and she regales the boy with clinical details of his real and fancied sexual conquests.
Shlomi’s older sister has twin babies but regularly returns to her mother’s home to detail her fights with her husband, who shamefully surfs the Internet for porn.
It all looks like another story of another dysfunctional family, a recurring theme in Israeli movies, when Shlomi’s life slowly turns around.
A perceptive teacher and school principal gradually peel away Shlomi’s layers of self-doubt and discover an exceptional mind and poetic sensibility.
A neighboring girl recognizes Shlomi’s real inner worth, and in a beautiful scene they shyly offer each other their finest gifts — she, the herbs she grows in her garden, and he, the diet-defying cakes he bakes in the kitchen.
The film’s theme is “the pain created by the gap between one’s outer image and the inner truth,” said Shemi Zarhin, the film’s director, himself of North African descent.
“Monsieur Shlomi” is a charming film, a word rarely applied to Israeli movies. Oshri Cohen portrays Shlomi with absolute veracity and his relationship with his grandfather (Arie Elias) is deeply affecting.
As a special bonus, Ashkenazic viewers will get a much-needed insight into the lifestyle of Israel’s Sephardic Jews. Although director Zarhin’s ancestors came to Palestine nearly 300 years ago, “both I and Oshri grew up with the mindset that we were part of Israel’s underclass,” he said.
“Bonjour, Monsieur Shlomi” opens July 16 in Los Angeles.
‘Bonkers’ Finds Humor in Hell
Two Educators Earn Honors
Barry Koff, who integrates technology and art into his religious school lesson plans, is a recipient of this year’s Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.
Joanne Mercer, retiring director of education at Newport Beach’s Temple Bat Yahm, suggested Koff be considered for national recognition by the Jewish Education Service of North America and the local Bureau of Jewish Education.
Another winner from Orange County this year is Limor Barkol, a Hebrew teacher at Morasha Jewish Day School in Rancho Santa Margarita and Westminster’s Temple Beth David.
"I have had the fortune of studying with many of Orange County’s wealth of rabbis and educators, including my mentor, Rabbi Bernie King," Koff said, referring to the rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’a lot. "King says that ‘everyone we meet is our teacher,’ so I suppose I come by my Jewish knowledge through my family, friends and strangers."
Koff earned a state teaching credential and completed a master’s degree in Jewish education through Chicago’s Spertus College. Yet his first career as an on-air radio broadcaster comes through in his classroom. During three years at Bat Yaym, Koff encouraged use of student-made video documentaries about Jewish genealogy and music videos about historic Jewish personalities.
"I try to bring whatever creativity I can to allow students to express themselves and their Jewish identity," Koff said.
His assignment is seventh-grade Judaic studies and middle-schoolers preparing to become confirmands.
He previously served as education director at Shir Ha-Ma’a lot, where he started, wrote and produced full-length Jewish-themed musicals for the Not Ready for Orthodox Players children’s theater.
Koff, 46, and his wife, Ann, live in Dana Point with 10-year-old twins, Jonathan and Shoshana. Koff currently is a full-time home-school teacher for his children.
The award recognizes 50 outstanding Jewish educators annually. They each receive $2,500 toward funding professional development.
Koff intends to use the prize money for a summer study program in Israel.
UC Irvine Graduation Clash Fizzles
Film Fest Fun
The succession of subtitles onscreen was riveting and jarring: “The biggest singer in France is Israeli…. Mike Brant looked relaxed and beautiful, except his head was lying in a pool of blood.”
The text flashed across the screen during a teaser for “Mike Brant: Laisse Moi T’aimer,” an Israeli documentary exploring the stormy, short-lived starburst of Brant, an Israeli singer who didn’t even speak fluent French when he took France by storm with his pop hits in the early 1970s. By 1975, at age 28, he fell to his death from the sixth floor of his Paris apartment building in an apparent suicide.
“Mike Brant,” an Israeli 2003 Cannes entry, was one of more than two-dozen cinematic offerings at the 19th Israel Film Festival, a film anthology spotlighting the latest crop of feature-film fiction and documentaries coming out of Israel.
Erez Laufer, director of “Mike Brant,” was one of the honorees at the opening-night gala, held at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills. Laufer, during his acceptance speech for the Cinematic Award, told the audience that he was pleased to be at Cannes 33 years to the date of Brant’s first performance on a French TV show.
Israeli filmmakers were, naturally, the focus of the fete, but they weren’t the only ones being honored on opening night. The festival also saluted a couple of local yokels who are doing all right for themselves. Richard Riordan, former L.A. mayor and prospective newspaper publisher, introduced Humanitarian Award-recipient Larry King. Marvel Entertainment’s Avi Arad presented the Visionary Award to Laura Ziskin.
Ziskin, who previously had a hand in “Pretty Woman” and “Fight Club,” said, “I work under the motto that movies aren’t made. They’re forced into existence.”
Meir Fenigstein, festival founder and executive director, shared his incredulity over his event reaching the big 19. He spoke highly of the “challenge bringing the unique films and creativity of Israeli filmmakers to the U.S.A.”
“The festival allows us to see Israel without the politics,” said Kobi Oshrat, the Israel Consulate’s cultural attaché. “It shows what Israeli society is all about.”
This year’s festival, which runs through June 8, highlights films like “Slaves of the Lord,” another Cannes entry; and festival opener “All I’ve Got,” a macabre romantic comedy written and directed by Keren Margalit, which was screened at the gala opening and underscored the special “Reflections of Women” category.
Following the screening of “All I’ve Got,” The Circuit chatted with Ronit Reichman, a Tel Aviv University graduate and the producer of “Under Water,” who is in the process of relocating her Tamuz Productions to Los Angeles, where she will produce a three-part documentary on Islamic terrorism. The Circuit also caught up with Laufer, also a Tel Aviv University alum.
“In France, there’s a big ’70s revival right now, so people were ready for this film,” Laufer said of his Cannes reception. For Laufer, chronicling the life of the late Brant was “a journey to try and piece it together from what people say, from archive footage. You try to find the person.”
Also in attendance: L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; “Wisdom of the Pretzel” producer Shai Werker-Option; “In the Ninth Month” writer-director Ali Nassar and star Nissrin Faour; “Return From India” producer Evgeny Afineevsky; “Local Hero in Jerusalem Beach” director Natali Eskinazim; David Lipkind, Israel Film Fund executive director; Meital Dohan, star of “God’s Sandbox,” and the film’s producer, Yoav Halevy; and Arthur Hiller, director of the original “The In-Laws,” who — with Arnon Milchan, Mike Medavoy, Michael Fuchs, Peter Chernin, Sumner Redstone, Sherry Lansing, Ron Meyer, Joe Roth, Terry Semel, Haim Saban, Steven Spielberg, Ted Turner and Jack Valenti — comprised the impressive roster of honorary chairs and co-chairs for 2003’s Festival.
For more information on the 19th Israel Film Festival, call (877) 966-5566 or visit www.israelfilmfestival.com .
‘Terrorist’ Helped Israeli Heal
In a display of creativity and generosity, several Jewish groups in Orange County in
recent weeks set out to demonstrate their unswerving support for Israel.
Calling a suggestion by Israel’s minister of tourism to visit hospitals a “wet blanket,” Fullerton travel agency owner Pnina Schichor instead lined up an awareness-raising tour of the sort she, herself, would like.
“Injured people don’t want gawking strangers,” she concludes after returning in May from a planning trip, during which she sensed the isolation of Israeli citizens. “I want them to know we’re standing with them,” says Shichor, who organized a trip for members of MERIT, Middle Eastern Reporting in Truth, a media-watch group she and her husband, David, co-founded last August.
Billed the MERIT Interfaith Solidarity Tour, it includes Haim Asa, rabbi emeritus of Fullerton’s Temple Beth Tikvah, and Pastor Garry Ansdell of Bellflower’s Calvary Chapel, along with 20 others scheduled to depart July 18 on the $1,795, eight-day trip. The itinerary includes working as volunteers at a military facility, visiting a Jewish-Arab cultural center, seeing Galilee’s water conservation and wetlands restoration projects, touring a Druse village and holding a rally outside a foreign embassy.
The high point of the trip, for Schichor at least, will be a hoped-for reunion with Jaber Abirukin, education director of Isifyia, a Druse village. The Druse, expected to join the Israeli military, are an ancient Muslim sect that broke away from Islam.
During the 1987 intifada, Abirukin spoke to students on California campuses roiled by unrest over the conflict. He was escorted by Schichor’s son, Nadar, a member of the American Zionist Youth Federation.
“He could see from both sides,” recalls Schichor, who remembers Abirukin’s spellbinding affect on an audience. “Israelis were sitting with their mouths open,” she says.
Abirukin’s sobering conclusion was remarkably prescient. “The shocking thing I got out of it,” Schichor recalls, “was if you’re looking for peace immediately, you’ll have to be steadfast; if you’re going to be impatient, you’re going to lose.”
“We’re learning it now,” Schichor says. “There’s no quick fix.”
Just a few weeks earlier, another contingent of nine residents went to Israel and were privileged to spend an hour asking questions of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as well as attending other top-level political and military briefings organized by the American Jewish Committee.
“I find it personally embarrassing having a pilot thank me for coming to Israel on a tourist trip,” says Irvine’s E. Scott Menter, a member of the 100-person delegation. Even so, he saw the group’s impact in empty shops. “I had one guy turn the lights on for me. No one had been there all day,” says Menter, who took home more tchotchkes than he wanted.
Forty other local residents in May pledged $150,000 to Israel road construction. The effort is part of a $10 million commitment by Israel’s Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemeth Leisrael (JNF) to construct secondary “security” roads and repair others destroyed by tanks.
The 2.5 miles funded by the JNF’s Orange-Long Beach region parallels the Har Adir-Sasa Road, says Gail W. Weiss, the group’s regional director. In March, six Israelis were killed and seven wounded on the main road when passing cars were fired on from Lebanon. “We’re 75 percent of the way to reaching our goal,” she says.
Since May, members of Irvine’s University Synagogue have contributed $25,000 toward purchasing a $60,000 ambulance for American Red Magen David, the Santa Monica-based support group for Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent to the Red Cross.
The vehicle will bear the congregation’s name. “An ambulance saves lives,” says Henry Wyle of Irvine, chair of the project. “It’s a symbol of values Jews place on life.”
The computer lab in Anaheim’s Temple Beth Emet religious school typically hums with students studying Torah on CDs. Recently, students took time out to write 30 e-mail letters to Israeli soldiers, says Margalit Moskowitz, Beth Emet’s education director. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
While none of the students received replies, Moskowitz says the process alone is valuable. “The most important thing was the children felt connected, that they are contributing something to Israel. It’s so hard to have a connection, to create a link.
She says, “I think the letter helped achieve it.”
Digitizing the Shoah
Art of Summer
Max and Jesse Glaser come from a home where the fine arts are highly valued. Their father, Sam Glaser, is a well-known Jewish musician, and as their mother, Marcia, says, “We have a lot of artistic muses in our family.” But because Max and Jesse are being educated in Orthodox yeshivas, where creative self-expression often takes a backseat to intensive academic study, they have had little opportunity to pursue the arts during their school years.
So when Marcia heard of an Orthodox summer camp that offered music and art, “we jumped at it,” she says.
Camp Ruach, also known as the Los Angeles Jewish Camp for Music and the Arts, debuted this summer on the grounds of Yeshivath Ohr Eliyahu Day School in Culver City. The camp runs five days a week through Aug. 7.
An introductory program, conducted by experts in early childhood arts education, Ruach caters to boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 6. There is also a sophisticated music and art curriculum tailored to boys through eighth grade. (The administrators hope to establish a girls’ camp at a separate facility in the future.)
Campers begin their mornings with prayer and Torah study, and enjoy outdoor activities led by an experienced sports coach. But the heart of each day is devoted to the arts: the boys receive small-group instruction from professional musicians on a wide range of instruments, or they can explore ceramics, calligraphy, woodwork, acrylics, pastels and other media. An alumnus from the Groundlings comedy school in Los Angeles teaches improv. Also on staff are a photographer and an animator who worked on Disney’s “Tarzan” and “Hercules.”
Camp Ruach’s founder, Rabbi Dovid Sudaley, is a member of the Ohr Eliyahu faculty, and serves as youth director at Anshe Emes Synagogue in Los Angeles, the camp’s sponsoring organization. Sudaley is also a trained musician who studied at Juilliard and worked as an off-Broadway composer before seriously embracing Judaism.
Great care has been taken, in material sent to the parents of the 100 children currently enrolled, to spell out rules of conduct that are consistent with traditional Orthodox values. For instance, youngsters are cautioned not to discuss Pokémon or television programs while at camp.
The camp choir will probably build its repertoire from Hebrew songs, but participants are free to experience a wide range of musical compositions. Nor is the entire teaching staff Jewish, such as Washington Rucker, a well-established African American drummer who often demonstrates jazz in public schools.
Rucker, who first met Sudaley at a musical gig, has high respect for his musicianship. Although he has never before tried teaching Orthodox Jewish children, Rucker believes that music transcends all ethnic boundaries. He says he and the children will learn from one another. “I think it’s important that people come together — and if music can be the conduit, so be it,” he adds.
For more information, call (310) 284-8831 or contact email@example.com
Drastic Rule Change
Two In Brief
On July 18, 1947, Dr. Ruth Gruber stood on a wharf in Haifa and watched the battered ship Exodus inch into the harbor. The ship had been rammed by British warships determined to keep the 4,554 Holocaust survivors aboard from reaching Palestine.
Previously, Gruber was the only journalist allowed to enter the Soviet Arctic; now she was the only American journalist who followed the Exodus passengers as they were transferred to British prison ships and sent back to Europe. An updated edition of her classic 1948 book on the drama is now in bookstores, retitled “Exodus 1947: The Ship That Launched a Nation” (Times Books $25).
It wasn’t the first time that Gruber had worked with refugees. In 1944, then-Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes assigned her a secret mission: She was to travel to Italy to bring 1,000 refugees through Nazi-infested waters to safe haven in Oswego, NY. Her subsequent book, “Haven: The Unknown Story of 1,000 World War II Refugees” is the subject of a new musical play, “Oswego,” which will have a staged musical reading at People of the Book, The Jewish Book Festival Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m. at the West Valley JCC. Gruber, now 88, will be on hand for a panel discussion after the event, sponsored by the Jewish Center for Culture and Creativity.
On Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m. at the Valley Cities JCC, author Susan Dworkin will discuss her book, “The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust.” The tome tells of Viennese Jew Edith Hahn Beer, who romanced a Nazi party member during the war. He married her, despite her confession that she was Jewish, and kept her identity secret.
For information about the Gruber and Dworkin events, call (818) 464-3300.